What you can do with your own team

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Stop and think about the most meaningful memories you have, there’s a good chance they didn’t happen alone. Why? What comes to mind tends to be the moments we share with people we care about. When setting out on the journey to a Healthier You, chances are the focus will be on the changes, goals and routines you’ll want to make for yourself. Enjoyment is often  enhanced by being together. Here’s advice from some of our experts on how to get your whole team involved.

Gio Sardella, an athletic trainer with the Raptors, knows what the grind of the road can be like. When the Raptors and their team of coaches, trainers and therapists are on the road, through back-to-back games and nights in different cities and hotels, it can be an exhausting blur. Sardella says in those stretches most people just want to sleep as much as they can and “shelter themselves” from life on the road. Sardella says it’s in these long stretches where something like a team dinner is all-important.

There doesn’t have to be an occasion, just enough of a gap in the schedule for everyone to take a few hours to sit down for a meal. They’ll unwind and talk about the game, or try to get away from it if it wasn’t what they wanted. It’s as important for mental decompression as it is for team chemistry, and Sardella takes the same approach in his personal life.

“We are social creatures and that social interaction is super important,” Sardella says.

He adds that a good way to get around the urge to isolate is to plan social outings in advance. “You might not want to do it, but half the battle is actually going to do it. You're not going to regret it. You don't ever hear somebody saying, I regret going to meet friends, or I regret going to dinner. It's always a good time when you do.”

For Sardella it helps him to strike a balance between long and often chaotic stretches of work  and settling back into life at home. Scheduling time with friends and family helps us place invest equal amounts of our time into necessary social outlets.

Cooking with the family

“One of the ones that we make and enjoy is something called Shakshouka,” Jen Sygo, Raptors Performance Dietitian says.

The Mediterranean dish is a family favourite in Sygo’s house because the prep and cooking all happen at once. And it includes as many hands on deck as possible. She describes the easy recipe with a smile.

“It's done in one big frying pan. We use a cast iron pan, and you fry together

  • tomatoes and peppers and onions,
  • paprika and other herbs and spices,
  • and eventually, you crack a few eggs right into the veggies and  poach them.”

Sygo notes half the fun is where you might “mess up” and then opt to add in something else to balance the dish. The other half is in the delivery.

"What's fun about it is it goes right to our table. You take the giant frying pan to the table and then everybody's dipping. It's this big, sloppy hot mess of a meal and it takes 20 minutes to make. It's got everything covered for your evening,” she says, noting she’ll add extra spinach and greens, whatever kind she has on hand, to make sure her kids are getting their vegetables.

Sygo calls it a “chaos dinner” that’s fun to make and turns into the kind of meal she and her kids are excited to gather around and share.

‘We’re social creatures’

Practicing play

Alex Auerbach, Director of Wellness & Development, likes to take lessons from his daughter. She makes fun a priority, and so does he. It could be something as simple as trying out a new hobby just because it seems exciting.

“Making sure that we build some fun into our lives is a really important way, and helpful way, to improve our overall mental health,” Auerbach says.

An easy way to do that is by letting kids lead in activities they want to try — assuming they’re safe — or they want you to try as a family. It helps kids feel involved in decision-making and shows that joy is a priority for you and your family.

Auerbach says that ‘play’, in this sense, can extend to a hobby or to a project at work you’re taking initiative on. That working on “something meaningful” is something that can instantly improve our mental health.

“Find a place where you feel like you're making real progress and growing is a great way to support your overall wellness,” Auerbach notes.

Play can be as simple as its name suggests, or nuanced as letting the mind wander. Making sure we give ourselves that free-thinking time gives our imagination its most important reps.

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